As SOEasy crashes and burns, Singapore’s Ministry of Education does the Right Thing

What a pleasant surprise to read that the Singapore Ministry of Education has signed a deal to deploy Google Apps for use by teachers. This is a huge win that we have to shout out loudly.

I, however, do have one caveat. Reading paragraph one of the press release above it says: “… to adopt an open standard cloud computing platform”. I think it is not right to say that Google Apps is an “open standard cloud computing platform”. Well, not just yet. Not until we have a set of standards that allow people to move from one cloud infrastructure to another. As is, Google Apps is not fully open – yet. Don’t get me wrong – I am thrilled that Google is the provider not someone else. At least Google has a Clue about open standards and open source. At least now schools can just use Open Office and Google Docs interchangeably. No need for any proprietary office tools. I really want to meet the MOE officials who did the Right Thing and buy them a beer!

As I read that MOE went with Google, I was listening to a series of horror stories from the poor “rest of Singapore government officers” who are now burdened with the so-called “SOEasy” standard operating environment roll out. All those in IDA who have been “moved” to the “new easier platform” are now thoroughly annoyed. The play on words “SOEasy” (allegedly to mean “so easy”), is a disaster that we have to have stopped. Tax payers monies are being spent on stuff that reduces the efficiencies of the work process and forces clued-in IDA officers (yes there are some) to have to bring in their personal laptops in order to get work done. I am hearing from some government officials that I should not expect any replies from them via email after 5 pm because they refuse to bring their worthless “locked down Windows laptop” home. If I expect a reply, it will only come during office hours and only if they are in the office. So much for improving efficiencies. A few days ago, I was told by yet another government official that the emails that were on their Lotus Notes system does not automatically get forwarded to the new M$ exchange email server and that they have to cut and paste the mails between the systems. I was also told that the budget for the SOEasy project did not include data migration costs from the Lotus Notes database to M$ sharepoint. Imagine that! I am getting really concerned here because, unlike the NCB of old, the IDA of now is a technologically lost. I think we need to reboot IDA. Would you want to help me?

Yes, I am biased against the other behemoth because, unlike Google, the other behemoth does not have the “do no evil” ethos. The other behemoth only believes in vendor lock-in, even more vendor lock-in and to be kept on the constant upgrade path.

Congratulations, MOE, IDA and Google. The Singapore-Redmond nexus (some say axis of evil) has been cracked. And BTW, left hand MEET right hand!


Eugene says that “Isn’t that from one proprietary platform to another. I don’t see how that’s happy news. Plus, privacy should be another concern.”. I agree with him that it is still a proprietar platform. But the way I see it, you can extract mail out of the Gmail system as well as pulling down all of your documents if you want to. As for security, Google email did have a leak as recently as last week. But I think it has been resolved (although apparently Google took days to do this) and haven’t said why it is the case. Years ago (2000/2001), when I was running Inquisitive Mind ( – not available anymore), we had a problem with some of our Singapore school customers who were able to see email from other schools. It turned out that the proxy servers run by the MOE were broken (they were MS proxies after all) and they cached all the contents aggressively. We had to put the time stamps in the html to be 01-Jan-1970 and also to add the nocache prama to the html. Painful experience, but that fixed it.


About harishpillay

father, husband, son, hacker, friend, human
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14 Responses to As SOEasy crashes and burns, Singapore’s Ministry of Education does the Right Thing

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